A Lamp for Birds: Poland’s Environmentally Active Art
#photography & visual arts
small, A Lamp for Birds: Poland’s Environmentally Active Art, Zjadacz kurzu designed by Kuba Bąkowski, photo: press materials, zjadacz_kurzu_promo.jpg
Designers, architects and other environmental artists are raising awareness of ecological threats and proposing real measures through their extraordinary installations.
Cleaning the air creatively
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'Zjadacz Kurzu' (Dust Eater) designed by Kuba Bąkowski, photo: press materials
Between 14th September and 31st October 2017, the Dust Eater cleaned the air in Kielce. Kuba Bąkowski’s installation is a sculpture which not only adorned and intrigued public space, but it also literally purified the air, serving as a measuring station for the presence of harmful substances in the atmosphere. Similar installations blurring the line between art and ecology are constructed by other artists who care about the environment and the quality of our surroundings.
Kuba Bąkowski describes his project as follows:
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The ‘Dust Eater’ is a hybrid of art and industry. It combines post-futuristic artistic proposals with advanced industrial engineering.
The 4-metre-high, intensely blue installation was unveiled on 14th September near Artists’ Square in the centre of Kielce. Over one and a half months, the incredible machine-sculpture equipped with professional filters sucked in polluted air, removing PM 10 and PM 2.5 particles, the main components of urban smog. Moreover, it informed the inhabitants of the quantities of harmful substances in the air each day.
Of course, the Dust Eater didn’t purify all the air in Kielce. The installation was meant to raise awareness of the hazards posed by smog. Blurring the lines between art and ecology, the striking work was an important message in the debate about air pollution in Polish cities. Kuba Bąkowski emphasises that the form of the installation is not random – it was influenced by Kielce’s industrial past and its participation in the Central Industrial Region, an economic project conducted in the 1930s.
An island water-treatment gym
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This installation is in harmony with works that combine artistic and practical aspects. Placed in public spaces, their striking forms prompt people to reflect on current events. Jakub Szczęsny’s installation, Wyspa: Synchronizacja (Island: Synchronisation) served a similar purpose long before Polish cities were scattered with urban open-air gyms and long before the inhabitants of Warsaw rediscovered the charm of the River Wisła flowing through the city centre.
In 2009, Szczęsny built an unusual gym on the river – a system of machines equipped with special filters and powered by human muscles meant to purify the river’s water. Encouraging people to exercise outdoors, filtering water pollution, an eye-catching appearance – this marvellous sculpture had much to offer.
A lamp for birds
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In turn, the architects from the Poznań-based Ultra Architects firm took care of the feathered city-dwellers. They designed a street lamp with a twist: it also provides shelter for birds. Its authors called it A Pregnant Lamp because of the characteristic bulge on its pole. They emphasised not only the practical and the educational angle of the installation:
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The lamp will come in three versions: the basic one with a replaceable wooden nest box, an educational version with a camera in the box and a small LCD screen installed on the lower part of the lamp, and a version which allows netizens to embed the view of the box’s inside on their websites.
The lamps were designed in 2010, and the first prototypes appeared in Poznań in 2017. It didn’t take long for the boxes to receive their first tenants: a couple of titmice moved right in.
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‘Bin-e’, designed by Jakub Luboński and Marcin Łotysz, photo: promotional materials
Kuba Bąkowski’s installation addressed smog, a major urban problem in Poland and around the world. An equally critical issue is rubbish, which we overproduce but don’t yet know how to process. In 2016, Jakub Luboński and Marcin Łotysz designed a device which can sort and compress rubbish itself for further easier recycling. The smart rubbish bin is called Bin-e, and it can work perfectly in airports, offices and streets to combat the problem of incorrectly sorted rubbish, which makes recycling more difficult.
Rubbish is a treasure: it can be used not only to obtain secondary raw materials but also to build houses, as it was proven by the students of the University of Brighton. To construct a fully functional building, they needed, among others, 500 audio cassettes, 19,800 toothbrushes, 200 wallpaper rolls, 1.8 tonnes of old jeans, 500 bicycle inner tubes and 4000 videocassette boxes.
An e-skipping rope
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The ingenuity of eco-conscious designers helps us to sort rubbish and purify water and air. Some of them, however, act on a much smaller scale. In 2011, Marta Niemywska created Lolliled, a skipping rope with torches for handles. Their batteries charge when the rope is skipped over. In other words, we can produce electricity by exercising.
In turn, Łukasz Roth designed an object within a strictly taboo sphere of life. He created a burial urn which is not only biodegradable but also gives birth to a new life: a sack of seeds which grows into a tree. The project is not only ecological but also metaphysical in nature.
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For years, scientists have been sounding the alarm: we are destroying our planet at an alarming rate, and an ecological catastrophe is just a matter of time. We can either start caring for the environment or face extinction as a species. It is ever more important to appreciate the designers, architects and artists who are helping to raise awareness of the problem and suggest real actions – even if these are just a drop in the ocean as our natural environment deteriorates.
Originally written in Polish by Anna Cymer, Oct 2017; translated by AP, May 2018